More than 60% of Australians and New Zealanders are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of experiencing a wide range of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessel diseases), type 2 diabetes, Osteoarthritis, some types of cancer, reproductive problems, and gall bladder disease. As if those weren't enough reasons to take steps to get your weight under control, being overweight or obese can also impact on your energy levels, social life and self-esteem. If you're overweight or obese, losing even a small percentage of your body weight will help you feel better, and will also improve your health prospects.
- Weight classifications are typically measured by either body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference
- Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. For example a person who weighs 65 kg and is 160 cm tall has a BMI of 25.4 (65/(1.6 x 1.6)
- According to the criteria of the World Health Organization, a BMI of 18.5-25 is within the healthy weight range, 25-30 is considered overweight, and greater than 30 is considered obese
- However, your waist measurement may be a more useful measure of your health status, because it takes into account the amount of abdominal body fat that you're carrying, which is correlated with the amount of fat around your internal organs and is a strong indicator of your health risk
- To measure your waist, use a flexible tape measure held directly against the skin (not over clothes) and measure in line with your navel, about halfway between your lowest rib and your hip. Don't hold your breath - make sure you breathe out normally
- For most men, health risk is increased when the waist measurement is over 94 cm, and greatly increased when it is over 102 cm. For most women, risk is increased when the waist measurement is 80 cm, and greatly increased when it is over 88 cm.
- Lower cut-off points (90 cm for men and 80 cm for women) are used for people from Asian backgrounds, who tend to be of lighter build
- While it's true that some health conditions can increase body weight or make it difficult to shift, poor diet and lifestyle habits are the cause of excess body weight in the vast majority of cases. In summary, we gain weight when our intake of energy (measured in calories or kilojoules) consistently exceeds the amount of energy we use in our daily lives
- High consumption of foods that are high in fat (especially saturated and trans fats), or that have a high glycaemic index (GI) and consequently are quickly converted to sugar in the body
- Leading a sedentary or relatively inactive lifestyle
- Yo-yo dieting (also known as weight cycling), which interferes with the regulation of metabolism
- Genetics and/or family eating and lifestyle patterns can also contribute
- Many people gain or lose weight at significant times in their life for either physical or behavioural reasons. For example, hormonal changes mean that many women gain weight around the time of Menopause, whereas gaining weight after your wedding is more likely to be related to changing your diet or exercise behaviour
- Some people tend to put weight on when they're Stressed, while others tend to lose weight
- Hormonal factors such as thyroid underactivity and the Fluid Retention of Premenstrual Syndrome may be involved, however in a vicious cycle, these problems may be partly due to being overweight
- Similarly, it is difficult lose weight if your digestive tract is not functioning optimally, but being overweight also contributes to the development of Sluggish Liver function, Constipation and Indigestion
- Some prescription medicines can contribute to weight gain (e.g. corticosteroids, anti-epileptic medications)
Nutritional & Herbal Support
- Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is the active component of the herb garcinia (also known as brindleberry). Hydroxycitric acid has been clinically proven to reduce appetite and decrease food consumption, and its use may lead to up to three times more weight loss than diet and exercise alone. It works by supporting your body's ability to burn fat and convert it into energy, and is best taken in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise plan. In research studies, hydroxycitric acid has also helped to reduce Cholesterol and triglycerides, and been shown to promote a positive mood in people who were dieting
- Hydroxycitric acid is often taken in conjunction with the Ayurvedic herb gymnema, and the mineral chromium, and this combination may be more effective than using hydroxycitric acid alone.
- Gymnema and chromium reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings, support the body's utilisation of sugars, and assist with the maintenance of blood sugar balance and normal blood glucose levels. Besides chromium, nutrients that are involved in the metabolism and utilisation of sugars include zinc, magnesium, manganese and nicotinamide (vitamin B3)
- Chitosan is a form of fibre that can assist with weight control by binding to dietary fats to reduce their absorption in the gut and allow them to be excreted in the faeces. Clinical studies suggest that chitosan is effective at helping people who are overweight or obese to lose weight. These fat-blocking capsules should be used in conjunction with an appropriate diet and exercise regime.
- Milk thistle has powerful antioxidant properties that help to protect the liver from toxic damage and stimulate the repair and regeneration of liver cells
- Milk thistle is often taken in conjunction with globe artichoke, schisandra and dandelion leaf, a combination of liver, gall bladder and kidney cleansing herbs that increase bile output and stimulate bowel function, and consequently enhance the body's detoxification mechanisms and support the excretion of toxins
- Taking a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement works with your body's own gastric secretions to enhance your digestion of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and cellulose, and consequently may reduce symptoms of Sluggish Liver. Look for a formula that also contains herbs such as ginger and peppermint, which are traditionally taken to relieve symptoms of gastrointestinal cramping (colic) as well as other digestive symptoms such as Indigestion and Nausea
- Nutritional deficiencies can easily occur when you're following a restricted diet. This can impair your weight loss efforts, make you tired, and increase your susceptibility to Stress. To safeguard against nutritional deficiency, take a high potency multivitamin that provides a broad spectrum of nutrients to support energy production and help combat nervous tension and Stress. A formula that also includes Korean ginseng may be particularly beneficial for men, because this herb has traditionally been used to raise energy levels and improve the ability to withstand Stress. Siberian ginseng has similar properties, and is an ideal inclusion in a multivitamin supplement for women
Diet & Lifestyle advice
- Difficulty losing or gaining weight despite following an appropriate diet and exercise regime may be indicative of underlying disease, and requires medical investigation
- Stick to a low glycaemic index (GI) diet that includes slow-burning carbohydrates (such as oats and legumes) to help you maintain better blood glucose control and burn fat more efficiently. At the same time, avoid high GI carbohydrates such as sugars, wheat products (e.g. bread), and potatoes, which are metabolised quickly, leading to blood sugar fluctuations, and promoting the storage of body fat
- Eating several small meals throughout the day also helps stabilise blood sugar levels and will help you avoid feeling hungry. Include a small serve of protein at each one
- Avoid fats that present a high workload for your liver and gall bladder: full-cream dairy products, margarines, processed vegetable oils (hydrogenated or trans fats), deep fried foods, preserved and fatty meats. Instead, choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. In particular, try to eat several serves of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or sardines) every week to maintain high levels of omega-3 fats
- Fibre helps to fill you up, reducing the amount of calories you eat during the day, and also binds to toxins, allowing them to be excreted from the body. For these purposes, soluble fibre is the most effective form of fibre; good sources include psyllium, oats, barley and fibre from legumes and pulses
- Drink two litres of filtered water every day, and avoid soft drinks, cordial, alcohol and caffeine. Dandelion root has traditionally been used as a liver and gall bladder tonic and makes an excellent coffee alternative
- Ask your healthcare professional to arrange testing for food allergies and intolerances
- Taking the time to chew your meals slowly prepares the digestive tract for the imminent arrival of food, and triggers the release of gastric acids and enzymes that will enable optimal digestion. Don't eat when Stressed or anxious, and don't eat more than you need to feel satisfied
- Exercise is vital to your weight management program. It raises your metabolism, burns fat and decreases your susceptibility to many of the health problems associated with being overweight. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) on most days of the week, after seeking your doctor's approval
If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.